That Bessie Smith was the Queen of female
blues singers can never have been in doubt.
She was singing the blues before the days
of amplification, when as well as expertise
in the genre, a powerful voice was an
absolute requisite. Bessie was enormously
successful for the period, commanding
very large fees, compared to the average
for the era. Some of the people she chose
to record with were not really up to it
(Bob Fuller on alto on I Ain’t got Nobody
for instance, has a very wide vibrato
and an odd tone). On the other hand the
backings from Joe Smith, a fine cornet
player are fine and Fletcher Henderson,
Clarence Williams and James P Johnson
all come up with the goods on piano.
It goes without saying that the NAXOS
team has made a superb job of re-mastering
these old recordings, they always do!
Although I can appreciate that Bessie
Smith set the style for the vocal blues
and that style has lasted till today,
for me too much of this material sounds
the same and listening to it without interruption
for an hour is too much of a good thing!
On the other hand there are a lot of ‘back
to the delta’ men and woman out there,
who will find it an hour of pure joy and
good on them!